Valentine’s day is upon us, which means, among other things, overpriced chocolate and roses. For struggling relationships, it may provide a disappointing reminder of the love that you don’t feel. For others, it’s an exciting day to celebrate your love. And for some, it’s an opportunity to try to get your relationship back on track.
No matter what the current state of your marriage, I’ve got the best and most simple Valentine’s gift you could give to yourself and your spouse. When I say best, I don’t mean most expensive or even most creative. When I say simple, I don’t mean easy. But what I do mean is that this gift could do more for your marriage than perhaps anything else.
For the rest of this year, until December 31st, your gift is a non-negotiable commitment to do something (which I will describe below) every day. This means that you refuse to go to bed without doing this thing. This means that you are committed to do this even if you are tired, don’t feel like it, or even if your spouse is acting like a jerk. This isn’t their gift to you, it is your gift to them. So, give it no matter what. And if you forget, it is a commitment to make it up by doing two things the next day. Here is your daily objective:
Every day, do ONE thing that sends a clear message to your spouse that you love them. Don’t do the same thing every day. Mix it up a bit. Spend a few moments contemplating the needs and desires of your spouse, and then respond to their needs or desires in a thoughtful and loving way. Do this without telling your spouse that this is your gift.
Where to Start
For those who don’t know where to start, here are a few ideas:
- Write a love note and hide it in a place you know they’ll find it
- Do a household task that your spouse normally would do, expecting nothing in return
- Offer to give your spouse a back or foot rub, whichever they would prefer
- Pick up their favorite treat while you’re at the store
- Look your spouse in the eye and tell them one thing about them that you are truly grateful for
- Initiate some form of physical touch: a kiss, a hug, a hold, or even sexual intimacy (you should be able to guess whichever they would prefer)
- Suggest that you watch a movie that they would like to watch, even if it’s not something you would ever want to watch
- Surprise your spouse with a breakfast or lunch date
- Send a quick mid-day text to your spouse asking them how their day is going to just to say, “I’m thinking about you. I love you.”
- Offer to watch the kids or finish some household tasks while your spouse does something that he or she would like to do
Commit to Love
Buying flowers or chocolate would be a lot easier and even more flashy. But chocolate and flowers won’t produce the effect on your marriage that you really want. You want to feel in love and feel joy in marriage. You want your spouse to know that you really do love them, even though you sometimes don’t act like it (and maybe sometimes don’t feel like it). And you want to set a powerful example to your children that love can be constant in marriage and that there really is love at home.
This is what you really do want, so make a commitment on Valentine’s Day to go get it — even if you think that some of these things are not possible for you. Research shows that you can maintain a strong romantic connection throughout your marriage — if you really want it. What does it look like to really want it? The type of daily, non-negotiable commitment I’ve described.
Why You Should Give This Gift
If you are in a struggling marriage, this type of gift may seem too difficult or even pointless. I promise it’s not. Here is why this activity is not too difficult or pointless and is good for all marriages, even in very difficult circumstances:
- It is one simple thing a day. Anybody can do that every day. It’s a small price to pay for a significant improvement in your quality of life.
- You increase the chances that loving feelings will return to your marriage (if they’ve been lost) to both you and your spouse. Loving feelings are the fruit of loving thoughts, words, and actions. If loving feelings are already there, this gift will help you maintain those feelings even when life gets hard.
- Your perspective on your spouse and your marriage can improve significantly because every day you are placing more effort and focus on the positive (in thought, word, or deed). For those who already have positive views of their spouse, this gift can protect those views. For those who are struggling, this can help you break out of destructive thought cycles.
- You will become a better person and develop a critical life skill: You will learn that you can choose to act certain ways even though you may not feel like it. This is a critical life skill for any successful marriage. This is also a life skill that is required if we are to find joy in any circumstance.
For Valentine’s Day, this is the gift your marriage needs. (Because you are not going to tell them that this is your gift, it might also be a good idea to provide some chocolate or flowers. 😉 ) However, over time, your real gift will taste better than chocolate and smell better than roses.
This article was originally published at www.byuido.org titled “Need a Last-Minute Valentine’s Gift? Here’s the Best Valentine’s Gift You Could Give“.
Growing up, Valentine’s Day may have been my 23rd favorite holiday of the year. In fairness, I’m not sure if there are 22 other holidays. Still, you get my point.
It wasn’t that I hated Valentine’s Day. Rather, as a younger version of the male species, I was utterly indifferent to the holiday. What’s more, Valentine’s Day had the misfortunate of aligning itself with my least favorite month of the year.
To a young Dr. Rob (who was certainly no doctor and actually went by Robby at the time), February was the most flawed month. I mean, can’t we all agree that we’ve had our fun with winter by the 2nd month of the year? By February it’s been cold for way too long (at least where I’ve lived), it’s been dark for a long time, and spring still isn’t all that imminent. The one saving grace for February is that it has enough sense to only have 28 days . . . most of the time.
Returning to my previous apathy for Valentine’s Day, you might ask, “Didn’t you have a crush growing up? Didn’t you like girls?” To that I answer with a resounding yes . . . but, shy as I was, none of them ever knew about it. 🙂
But alas, fast forward to 2018 and I now genuinely love this holiday . . . and yes, this a guy we’re talking about (see 48 second mark).
Valentine’s Day Tip #1: Focus on love, not just romantic love
I often hear individuals reference Valentine’s Day as “Single Awareness Day.” I really do understand that this day, which often focuses on romantic love, can be hard for those either not in a relationship or not terribly happy in their current relationship.
However, focusing more on others and less on ourselves has been and always will be a secret to happiness. So whether you’re 20 years into the marriage of your dreams or that type of relationship remains a future dream, I encourage you (and each of us) to look for ways to help others feel special and loved during Valentine’s Day!
Valentine’s Day Tip #2: Focus on intimacy (no, not that kind)
This second tip is for those of us who are married. This strategy is just as helpful for those who’ve been married for 5 months as it is for those who’ve been married for 5 decades.
I’ve written in the past about the need for couples to prioritize physical intimacy (here, here, here, and here). No, my thoughts have not changed. Keep prioritizing physical touch on Valentine’s Day and every other day.
However, today I’m talking about the need for emotional intimacy. This form of intimacy leads to the sweet closeness and friendship that you observe in the happiest of marriages. According to Dr. John Gottman, the most successful marriages are built on a deep and abiding friendship.
There are obviously many ways to build a friendship (romantic or otherwise). Not surprisingly, marriages that are filled with kindness, forgiveness, and intentional time together are much more likely to be happy.
For the sake of this article, I want you to focus specifically on another strategy that can help increase the emotional intimacy in your marriage – developing an ongoing love map. Dr. Gottman refers to love maps as knowing the little things about your partner’s life, which creates a strong foundation for your friendship and intimacy.
Understanding the concept of the love map is not too challenging. The challenge comes in prioritizing the time needed to connect. However, as we put down the technology a little more, prioritize date night and couple time, and really focus on understanding and knowing our spouse (hopes, dreams, fears, etc.), each of us can increase the emotional intimacy in our marriages!
From the team at Family Good Things, we not only wish you a happy Valentine’s Day but hope you make this one to remember!
Falling in Love While on a Chemical High
Do you remember how much time you spent with your spouse when you were first dating?
I’m guessing that you spent every possible moment together. Other “stuff” wasn’t as important as spending time with your new love.
Many students see their grades begin to slide when they fall in love. Similarly, work performance often suffers during this time.
Why is that?
As couples begin to fall in love they experience an initial “chemical high”. According to Dr. Pat Mumby “Falling in love causes our body to release a flood of feel-good chemicals that trigger specific physical reactions.”
You remember those days right!? Sweaty palms, a racing heart, and when you were apart (which wasn’t that often) your thoughts were still centered on your guy (or your girl).
These chemicals (dopamine, adrenaline, oxytocin, norepinephrine) are actually quite useful in helping us fall in love as well as helping us desire to progress to courtship and marriage.
But, what happens when the chemical-levels drop?
This “high” doesn’t last though. After a few months, our body’s chemical levels return to a more normal level.
This is actually a really good thing- otherwise most of us would have flunked out of school or been fired from our jobs. The “love high” can be fun, but it is difficult to live a productive life in that chemically altered state.
But, does our love fade when this “high” is gone?
Well, it depends!
There are plenty of neglected marriages which leave both individuals riddled with hurt, disappointment, bitterness and anger.
By contrast, when couples choose to continue to prioritize their marriage (long after the initial “high”), then this relationship can grow into something much deeper and sweeter than anything experienced during the “chemically aided” beginning of their romance.
The Intentional Marriage
Before you were married, you were likely very intentional about spending time with your significant other. Sure, the “chemical high” helped, but by choosing to prioritize your relationship, you grew closer and had an ever increasing amount of love for each other.
However, according to William J. Doherty, PhD:
When we get married and especially after we have children, this reverses. Other things – the children, our work, our hobbies, even our religious involvement – become central and the marriage recedes to the background and only receives our attention when something is wrong.
Does this describe your marriage?
I hope not . . . but it might.
I have seen countless couples (even marriages between two wonderful people) who allow their relationship to fall into the background.
Valentine’s Day Vows
If your marriage is currently in the background, will you decide today to recommit to your sweetheart? Will you decide to prioritize him (or her) above all others?
Commit to prioritize your sweetheart about your career!
Commit to prioritize your sweetheart above your hobbies!
And, yes, even commit to prioritize your sweetheart above your children!
When describing this type of a marriage, Dr. Doherty noted that the happiest of couples have an absolute commitment towards each other and their marriage. He noted that happily married couples make these type of vows to each other:
- “Nothing will break us up.”
- “We will fight through whatever obstacles get in our way.”
- “We will renovate our marriage if the current version gets stale.”
- “If we fight too much or too poorly we will learn to fight better.”
- “If sex is no longer good we will find a way to make it good again.”
- “We will accept each other’s weaknesses that can’t be fixed”
- “We will take care of each other in our old age.”
He then concludes that in these happiest couples, these commitments aren’t simply made one time but are renewed over and over throughout a lifetime.